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At Haiti benefit show, stellar music a bonus for Austinites eager to help

Patrick George

On Sunday, more than 2,200 people came together to help earthquake-devastated Haiti the only way this town knows how: with barbecue, tacos and live music.

"Help Austin Help Haiti," a star-studded benefit concert, was held at the Austin Music Hall to raise money for Oxfam America and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, two charities helping the beleaguered country.

Joe Ely , the Gourds, Robert Earl Keen and Asleep at the Wheel were just some of the acts that performed.

The event was organized by Ely and his friend Doug Moyes , an investor in the Backyard music venue. A week ago, they joined with Direct Events — the Austin company that manages the Austin Music Hall and La Zona Rosa — to put the event together.

"We've all been working very, very hard this week," said Kylee O'Neil , a marketing coordinator for Direct Events. "Countless hours were put into this."

As Ely started getting in touch with other artists for the benefit, the response was "fantastic," O'Neil said.

"We had to start saying 'no' to people," she said.

The concert ran from 2 p.m. to midnight. Tickets were $33 at the door on Sunday. O'Neil said a tally of money raised wouldn't be available until today . Organizers say donations can still be made online at helpaustinhelphaiti.org.

In addition to the music, concertgoers were treated to food from the Salt Lick and Torchy's Tacos, proceeds from which also went to Haiti charities.

A silent auction included items donated by filmmakers Mike Judge and Robert Rodriguez, along with South by Southwest festival tickets.

A country already beset by poverty, Haiti was struck by a massive earthquake Jan. 12, reducing its capital to rubble and killing at least 150,000 people.

Judy Nudelman and her husband, Harvey, said they first heard about the benefit on TV earlier this week. She said they were excited to hear Guy Forsyth and the Flatlanders play, and the jumped at the chance to help Haiti.

"It's no surprise in Austin that people are lending support this way," Judy Nudelman said.

For Justin La Marine and his friend Shawn Specht , helping Haiti also came with a chance to hear a great lineup of musicians.

"The set list is awesome," La Marine said. "Asleep at the Wheel, the Gourds. It's all action-packed."

pgeorge@statesman.com; 512-392-8750